Chesapeake, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
From Towpath...to Highway...to "Toe" path
The Evolution of the George Washington Highway
— Dismal Swamp Canal Trail —
The walking path you are standing on right now has quite a history.
In 1804, it was a tow road on the eastern bank of the canal, where laborers, using long wooden poles, ropes or mules, pushed loaded barges full of shingles, lumber, corn husks, and other staples up and down the canal. There are even records of a shipment of brandy being the first to travel down the canal on a boat under its own power.
In 1896, when the canal was widened, some of the original towpath was destroyed to make room for the wider canal, which shifted the road in some areas. The original "corduroy road" (log road over a low and swampy area), was paved in 1920. In 1934, when drawbridges were constructed on U.S. Route 17/George Washington Highway at Deep Creek and South Mills, it was widened from 20 to 30 feet. This road became the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail in 2003 when the "new" portion of U.S. Route 17 opened for business.
The connection to our first President? George Washington's survey company charted parts of the Great Dismal Swamp – his namesake exists to this day: "Washington Ditch.” (Look for it on Great
Picture yourself riding in your '56 Chevy down this section of road in the 1960s. You could enjoy the view of the canal and stay cool under the shade of the many overhanging trees in summer. This portion of the road was so shady and dark that those who traveled it often referred to it as "The Tree Tunnel." There was even a sign on the road for travelers in both directions: TURN ON YOUR LIGHTS.
Erected by Parks, Recreation and Tourism, Chesapeake, Virginia.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Roads & Vehicles • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the Former U.S. Presidents: #01 George Washington series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1804.
Location. 36° 39.763′ N, 76° 21.989′ W. Marker is in Chesapeake, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, 2.1 miles south of George Washington Highway South (Business Route 17), on the right when traveling south. Marker is located on the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, 1.5 miles south of the North Trailhead. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1200 Dismal Swamp Canal Trail, Chesapeake VA 23323, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Herring (Heron) Ditch (approx. 1.3 miles away); Outliers Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (approx. 1˝ miles away); Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (approx. 1.7 miles away); Dismal Swamp Canal (approx. 1.7 miles away); Glencoe (approx. 4 miles away); North West Canal (approx. 4.1 miles away); Village of Deep Creek (approx. 5.9 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Chesapeake.
Related markers. Click here for a list of markers that are related to this marker. Dismal Swamp Canal
Also see . . .
1. Dismal Swamp Canal, Chesapeake. When it was constructed in the early 1790s, the Dismal Swamp Canal served as a vital commercial route between Virginia and northeastern North Carolina. The 22-mile canal snakes along the eastern border of the Great Dismal Swamp connecting the Albemarle Sound with the Chesapeake Bay. Notable Americans throughout history have recognized the Dismal Swamp Canal's importance to the region and the country. George Washington was one of the canal's first supporters and among five private investors in the Dismal Swamp Canal Company, which started construction on the canal in 1793. (Submitted on March 1, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
2. Great Dismal Swamp History. The Dismal Swamp Canal route was surveyed in 1784, and in December 1787 the Virginia General Assembly passed the "Act for cutting a navigable canal", the act to become effective "after the passing of a like act by the General Assembly of North Carolina". The North Carolina act did not pass until November 1790. The Dismal Swamp Canal Company was formed and chartered in both states. The work of clearing and digging, by "well disposed, able Negroes and Laborers, such as Ditchers, Sawyers and Shingle Gatherers" began from both ends in 1792. (Submitted on March 1, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
3. Cruising Into History: Dismal Swamp Canal. The canal became the first major means of commerce between northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia and opened the trade corridors between the sounds of North Carolina and the Chesapeake Bay. When the canal was made deeper in 1829 to accommodate vessels drawing 5.5 feet of water, steamboats began hauling goods through the passage. The canal’s heyday from 1829 to 1859 was the only time that investors were paid well. They shipped pigs, livestock, meat, beef and pork. The canal also was heavy on tar for naval stores in North Carolina and Virginia. (Submitted on March 1, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida.)
Credits. This page was last revised on April 29, 2021. It was originally submitted on March 1, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 180 times since then and 18 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on March 1, 2018, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page.